By Miriam Raftery
October 11, 2017 (San Diego) – Carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer drug 5,000 times stronger than heroin, is turning up in street drugs marketed as opoid narcotic painkillers such as Oxycodone, as well as in tainted heroin.
The drug is so deadly that just a couple of granules the size of salt crystals will cause death, even with medical intervention, authorities warn. It’s turning up in street drugs locally and nationally, including drugs sold by dealers and on the Internet’s dark web—and deaths are skyrocketing as a result.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that agents in San Diego and Imperial counties have seized over 20,000 conterfeit oxycodone pills. Besides carfentanil, counterfeit drugs locally have also been found laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs or chemicals.
One San Diego drug trafficker was found with a baggie containing enough carfenanil to kill 86,000 people, a Postal inspector told the Union-Tribune. The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have each recently issued warnings about the trend, with DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg calls “crazy dangerous.”
Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, causing between 58,000 and 65,000 deaths last year, CBS Live 5 reports, citing a Times poll.
According to the CDC, the death rate from synthetic opioids other than methadone rose over 72% from 2014 to 2015—and most of those deaths were not from prescription drugs, but rather from illegally manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine; it’s what killed the rock star Prince.
Now, carfentanil, 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is being used by illegal drug makers because it’s far cheaper than heroin or other opioids, but also much deadlier.
A Carfentanil gas was used by Russian special forces to subdue Chechen rebels holidng hostages in a Moscow theatre in 2002, killing 120 hostages from the poison gas as well as subduing the rebels.
Carfentanil has been banned as a battlefield weapon because it is so lethal, it would kill anyone who touched it without special handling and leave behind a toxic landscape, CBS Live5 News has reported. Some authorities fear the consequences should terrorists ever utilize carfentenil as a weapon of mass destruction.
Most carfentanil is made in China, where new regulations will kick in in the near future that authorities hope may stem the tide. But raw materials for making fentanyl and carfentanil have also been s hipped to Mexico, where they are converted into the deadly drugs in makeshift labs and then smuggled into the U.S.
In San Diego County, though some shipments have been confiscated at the border, others have made it into drugs sold on the streets. San Diego County’s Medical Examiner has confirmed 40 deaths this year alone from fentanyl and 11 more awaiting confirmation, plus two deaths caused by carfentanil.
The trend toward phony but lethal opioid pills and heroin laced with stronger substances is particularly dangerous given that medical providers have been urged to cut down on prescribing opioids, driving some patients onto the black market—and in a growing number of cases, the morgue.